Laura examines mystery of Whitmore name
MYSTERY surrounds the origin of TV presenter Laura Whitmore’s name, despite a turn on the latest Irish series of Who Do You Think You Are?
The Bray woman appeared on the show last Sunday night and found she had ancestors hailing from Wicklow, Wexford, Dublin, Tipperary and Mayo but tying down where her not-very-common surname came from proved elusive.
After following the trail of her father’s McIvor line, Laura discovered hard-working stone masons who, literally, left their mark on Ireland, links to the Fenian rebellion of 1867, early links to the trade union movement and the lockout in Dublin in 1905, and two heartbreaking deaths during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918.
Turning her attention to her mother Carmel’s Whitmore line, Laura immediately hit a stumbling block. While her grandfather was Robert Whitmore, he was born Robert Geraghty in 1905 and, along with two other grandsons, was living with his grandmother Elizabeth Geraghty in Ballythomashill in Co Wexford at the time of the 1911 Census.
Laura travelled to Kilpipe Church near the Wicklow/Wexford border to meet Canon Ruth Elmes, who revealed that none of Elizabeth’s four grandsons (born to her three daughters) had a father’s name recorded for them. In spite of any social stigma that may have existed at the time, Laura was impressed at Elizabeth’s strength of character in deciding to raise her grandchildren on her own (her husband died in 1903).
She then met with Baltinglass genealogist Paul Gorry, who gave her more information on Elizabeth’s family, the Farrars, who had been living on the Fitzwilliam estate for many years and some of whom were affected by the 1798 rebellion.
Laura then met with Arklow historian Jim Rees, who filled her in on some of the horrifying acts carried out during the rebellion and how her family, based in Coolfancy, were living right in the heart of it.
Returning once more to the mystery of her grandfather Robert’s name change from Geraghty at birth to Whitmore by age five, Laura discovered that her grandfather’s wedding certificate records his father as a labourer called Robert Whitmore. This was the only clue she had to her great-grandfather’s identity but, when a search of the 1911 Census reveals a number of Robert Whitmore’s living nearby, Laura was forced to accept that she may never know who her great-grandfather is.
Canon Ruth Elmes.